When the editor-in-chief of bi.org first approached me about writing for the website, I honestly didn’t give it too much thought. I was still in the throes of fighting through my dissertation, and the idea of adding anything new to my plate filled me with anxiety. Not only did I not have the time, I told her, but I was also quite certain that I hated writing. And, even if I didn’t loathe putting my thoughts down on paper, I still had nothing relevant or interesting to say. A few years later, however, after finally completing both my doctoral project and degree, I oddly began to miss the writing process. So much so, in fact, that one night, after a couple glasses of wine, the editor and I came up with a plan.
Our idea was for me to start a column in which I would explore the many topics and situations that she and I had been discussing casually for years. As two biracial, bisexual, recently graduated, cosmopolitan young women, we had plenty of shared experiences being caught between disparate or opposing worlds. In truth, I had always thought of these experiences as both uninteresting and unique to the particular circumstances out of which they came, but over the course of our conversation that night, she convinced me that the thoughts and feelings they evoked were ones most people could relate to.
So, a few months later, I began writing this column. Initially, I didn’t fully realize just how apt the title, “The In-between,” would prove to be. Now, however, this choice seems to have been almost inevitable. Over the last year, my discussions of personal life experiences therein have consistently centered on two prominent and overlapping themes, the first of which is my lifelong pursuit of belonging, and the second, my heightened willingness to recognize and embrace the gray areas of life as a result. In both cases, these themes illuminate different aspects of what it is like to perpetually exist in a middle space, which is rarely ever perceived as fully one thing or another. And, although I had been grappling with said situation my whole life, it was not until I began exploring it in the column that I fully came to appreciate the significance of the term we devised.
One of the many side-effects of writing such a column has been that I have now begun to recognize the in-between everywhere. As I described a few months ago in an earlier piece, I might be listening to music, reading a book, or attending a professional conference, and suddenly I’ll find myself face-to-face with someone else’s experience of non-belonging or displacement. Other times, I will instead be pondering a predicament of my own, and find that rather than seeing the matter in black and white, I am instead surrounded by varying shades of gray, with myself, once again, occupying some region of that vast middle zone.
The frequency with which this latter situation arises has recently led me to take it increasingly for granted. Although, on the one hand, I realize that my vantage point is unique, on the other, I often forget that so too is my resulting ability to recognize multiple sides of an issue. I might be listening to coverage of some current social debate, for example, and feel dismayed that no one is acknowledging the most obvious possibility: that some or all positions might in some way be true. Granted, in today’s fast paced world ruled by memes and 280-character tweets, taking the time to make nuanced arguments or admit the other side might have a point isn’t often rewarded. However, as history has shown us time and again, rarely does anyone ever get anything entirely right on their own. Instead, most human progress has largely been achieved by sifting through the successes and failures of others, and cutting and pasting together the best bits from all sides to build our own imperfect foundation on which to move forward.
One space where, to my surprise, I have recently come to find this recognition lacking, is the left-leaning world of queer activism. Given that the entire LGBTI community is built on notions of diversity and acceptance, I had sort of just assumed that I would find a ready willingness to acknowledge the value of diverging views there. However, over the last year, what I have come to find instead, is the frequent and broad embrace of an equally dogmatic ethos. The currency of “wokeness” that has taken over much of the progressive social landscape in recent years has had the unfortunate side effect of stamping out many forms of productive questioning and dissent, both in the LGBTI community and outside it. Although this notion may have initially helped level the playing field in the battle against repressive right-wing ideology, it still ultimately suffers from the same conformist orthodoxy that it aims to critique.
It is for this reason that I now feel compelled to, once again, evoke the power of the in-between to urge this conversation into a new middle space. Although I totally get the frustration and anger coming from voices that have felt stifled, rejected and ignored by the mainstream for far too long, at the same time, I also cannot help but feel disappointed by the way these voices have now begun to employ similar tactics in managing dissent. As I argued in both “Disconnected” and “Behind Enemy Lines,” if we are to have any hope at all of attaining mutual understanding or progress, our solution cannot be to refuse all forms of engagement with opposing views. Instead, we have to be willing to do the hard work of finding empathy for those who do not think or act or live like us, and accept the fact that our beliefs about what is best for the world are probably all some mixture of right and wrong.
So, with this in mind, I would like to invite you all to join me on a new intellectual platform. On it, we will debate and explore all manner of topics related to sex and sexuality, with the expressed intent of pushing the envelope and moving the conversation forward. We will do this by asking difficult questions, taking on controversial topics, and seriously engaging with the widest possible variety of experiences and perspectives. In doing so, we not only hope to show how incredibly beautiful and diverse the world of unfettered human sexuality can be, but also to breathe new life into what has increasingly become a stagnant conversation. I welcome you all to be part of this new, Queer Majority.